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Rankin’s Dragon is also referred to as the Pygmy Bearded Dragon and has the shortest lifespan of all the bearded dragons. In June 2017, Black-soil Bearded Dragon Pogona henrylawsoni was assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The assessment listed it as Least Concern.

What is Rankin’s Dragon?

Rankin’s Dragon whose scientific name is pogona henrylawsoni is the smallest of all the bearded dragons. It is a semi-arboreal species that is found in rocky outcrops and woodlands in central Australia.

They were discovered in 1985 by Wellington and Wells who are credited to have done the first formal description/identification of the black-soil dragon.

There was a struggle to settle on the name and that’s why you see Rankin and Henrylawsoni. A group of herpetologists petitioned the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature not to accept the name pogona henrylawsoni as suggested by Wells and Wellington. They claimed that Wells and Wellington had given very brief descriptions of species, including henrylawsoni. This petition was rejected.

The conflicts were personal as Richard Wells had fallen out with academics at Sydney’s Australian Museum. In 1978, Wells first suggested Pogona rankini and the first specimen of this bearded dragon brought to the US in the 80s was named P. rankini. Several publications have since accepted and now use pogona henrylawsoni but a few errors still emerge with rankin or rankini. Read about the naming story of Rankin’s Dragon here.

Other names: dumpy dragon, Lawson’s dragon, black soil dragon, or dwarf bearded dragon

Rankin’s Dragon Size:

Rankin’s dragon can reach an average size of 8″ (20cm) to 12″ (30 cm), including tail.

They are significantly smaller than other bearded dragons that attain 60 cm in length.

Differences from other Bearded Dragon Species

The Rankin’s dragon is the smallest species of bearded dragon and has shorter spines on the throat, whereas all other Pogona species have longer spines.

They are also the only species of Pogona that has pits on the sides of their heads (temporal fossa) that open directly to the inside of the mouth. These pits allow the dragon to “smell” their prey as they eat. All other bearded dragon species lack these pits.

Rankin’s dragons have a light brown to black base color with a series of dark bands across the back and tail. They are also known for their red heads, which is why they are sometimes called “red-headed dragons.”

Rankin’s Dragon Enclosure/terrarium set-up

Young Rankin’s Dragon can live in 10 to 20-gallon tanks which they may outgrow by the second year. For adult beardies of this species, you can get a 40 to 75-gallon terrarium.

Rankin’s Dragon Temperature:

The habitat should have plenty of hiding spots and basking areas. The basking spot should be about 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool side of the terrarium should be between 84 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use a heat lamp, ceramic heat emitter, or under-tank heater to create the basking spot.

The night-time temperature should not drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Being cold-blooded animals, bearded dragons rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

They will bask in the sun or under a heat lamp to raise their body temperature when they are cold. And if the environment is too hot, they will hide in the cool spots or pant to release heat from their bodies.

Rankin’s Dragon Humidity:

The humidity level should be between 35 and 40%. You can use a hygrometer to measure the humidity in the terrarium.

Humidity is helpful to them during the shedding process. If the humidity is too low, your dragon may have difficulty shedding its skin.

To increase the humidity level in the terrarium, you can use a humidifier or mist the enclosure with water 2 to 3 times a day.

Rankin’s Dragon Substrate:

The substrate should be easy to clean and maintain. It should also be safe for your dragon to ingest in small quantities.

Some of the best substrates for Rankin’s dragons are Newspaper, Reptile Carpet, Tile, and Astroturf.

Do not use cedar shavings or sand as a substrate because they can cause impaction if ingested.

Rankin’s Dragon Diet:

Rankin’s dragons are omnivores, which means they need a diet of both plants and animals. A healthy diet for Rankin’s dragons should consist of 50 to 60% insects and 40 to 50% vegetables.

Insects, such as crickets, dubia roaches, and mealworms, should be dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement and calcium. By putting the insects in a plastic bag with some of the powder and shaking the bag lightly to coat the insects before presenting them to your lizards, you may dust them.

It is recommended that you feed mealworms daily due to the higher level of chitin in the jaws which increases risk of impaction. Avoid vegetables with Oxalates such as spinach and kale as they will bind with calcium and prevent absorption.

Dandelion greens, turnip greens, collard greens, endive, escarole, mustard greens, and romaine lettuce are all good choices of vegetables for your Rankin’s dragon.

You can also give them commercially prepared bearded dragon food as a supplement to their diet.

Bearded dragons need a water dish in their enclosure for drinking and bathing. The water dish should be shallow enough so that your dragon can get in and out of it easily but deep enough to soak their entire body.

You should also mist the enclosure with water 2 to 3 times a day to provide extra hydration

Vegetables such as collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, and dandelion greens should be offered daily. Fruits such as mango, papaya, and kiwi can be given as a treat 2 to 3 times a week.

Rankin Dragon Brumation:

Brumation is a state of inactivity that occurs in many reptiles and amphibians during the winter months. Rankin’s dragons will typically start to brumate in October and November and emerge from brumation in January. During this two-month brumation at room temperature, your dragon may not eat, drink, or defecate for several weeks. They may also spend most of their time hiding.

It is important not to disturb them during this time as it can stress them out and cause them to come out of brumation prematurely.

Once your dragon has emerged from brumation, you should slowly increase the temperature of their terrarium back to their normal basking temperature. You should also offer them food and water.

Rankin’s Dragon Lifespan:

The average lifespan of a Rankin’s dragon is 6 to 8 years. However, with proper care, they can live up to 10 years or more. Read about Bearded Dragon Lifespan to see how this species compares to others.


Q: What is the lifespan of a Rankin’s dragon?

A: The lifespan of a Rankin’s dragon is 6 to 8 years.

Q: What is the size of a full-grown Rankin’s dragon?

A: The average size of a full-grown Rankin’s dragon is 18 to 24 inches.

Q: What is the difference between a Rankin’s dragon and other Bearded Dragon species?

A: The main difference between a Rankin’s dragon and other Bearded Dragon species is their size. Rankin’s dragons are smaller than most other Bearded Dragon species.

Q: What is the natural habitat of a Rankin’s dragon?

A: The natural habitat of a Rankin’s dragon is the dry, rocky deserts of Australia.


  1.  Wells RW, Wellington CR. 1985. “A classification of the Amphibia and Reptilia of Australia”. Australian Journal of Herpetology, Supplementary Series (1): 1-61. (Pogona henrylawsoni, new species, p. 19)
  2. ^ Pogona henrylawsoni at the Reptile Database

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